I bought a return First class to JFK from BA and elected to try the codeshare AA 777 on the outward leg with the return on BA metal. I have done this journey 5-6 times before in F.
I arrived at LHT T3 and went to the AA premium check-in facility which is located outside in area H. There were 2 staff members operating the 4 available desks and a queue of 8-10 people were ahead of me. I waited 10 minutes in line before being checked in.
I used the general fast track at T3 and was through security in 10 minutes.
I proceeded to the AA lounge where the agent direct me to the Flagship room rather than the main lounge. Later I visited the main lounge and could not discern any appreciable difference in terms of décor. I availed of some of the food offering there which seemed relatively basic (1 hot dish).The red wine offering was very poor with only a Chilean Cab Sauvignon and an Italian Syrah. I tried both but these were almost undrinkable. I noticed the whiskey offered was JW black label.
My flight was called and I proceeded to gate 27 which was 2-3 minutes away. On arrival there was general chaos with a queue going back into the main corridor. There did not seem to be any premium facility. After a few minutes I got into the holding area which was thronged. Boarding had commenced but there was no facility for priority boarding. Various groups were called and the one air-bridge serving the plane became backed up with passengers. I decided to wait in the holding area until the flight closed and then boarded last, an uncomfortable wait for 20 minutes as it happened.
At the door of the plane I was told where my seat was “far aisle turn left” so no being shown to my seat here! I arrived into the F cabin without any acknowledgment. I stored my overhead bag took off my jacked, sat down and read my own newspaper. I noticed a trolley in the forward area with news-papers but these were not offered. Finally a crew member passed and offered a drink from the tray she was carrying. No ”hello” or welcome etc. I could have been a lost passenger from another cabin.
The main reason for trying the AA F flight was to see the much vaunted Cabin and seats on the 777 ER. The F cabin was a 1-2-1 layout as in J but there is more space around one’s seat in F and also the seat swivels so that one can work at a desk whilst sitting looking straight out the window. I tried this setting and it worked fine. In general however, the seat offered very little privacy and was quite open to the other passengers. The seat controls worked well being controlled from their own wired remote and I used some of the pre-sets. My AV system stalled mid-flight and needed to be reset. I did connect my iPhone3 and was able to listen to my music whilst using the provided Bose noise cancelling headphones (which were very effective). The iPod docking requires a special cable which the crew provided but they had absolutely no idea as to how the system worked (I asked them). The AV selection seemed reasonable and I watched 1 new release film after lunch on what seemed to be a decent size TV screen.
I noted that wifi was available on board but did not avail of this because I did not feel that I would get value for the $19 it would cost. I thought that in a premium cabin this might have been included but “no” was the sheepish response from the crew when I asked!
I usually avail of the “dine on demand” service in F cabins but the timing of this flight was such that had the main meal after take-off. Even though AA offers this, the crew were in no rush to mention its availability!
Lunch was good, with my beef being quite tasty and the wines offered were decent. The cheese plate consisted of 3 slender items of cheese and a few crackers which was very disappointing. I did manage to get to see the business class menu and noted that it was the same as in F but with one or 2 dishes omitted. The same was the case with the wine list. The list of spirits also seemed to be the same and I noticed that the whiskey offering in F (and J) was Dewars White label. A google check later indicated that this sells for £18 per 700ml bottle. Not quite JW Blue label or Chivas Royal Salute often available in other carrier’s F cabins!
The meal before arrival was a decent waldorf salad and premium chocolates were offered before landing.
The F Cabin was full but I noticed some unusual activity throughout. A female passenger was in 2A with a toddler. (The headphones thankfully prevented any real issue with noise). She seemed to be regularly leaning back through the curtain and moving around. Only when disembarking I realised that another male passenger also with a young child was obviously travelling with her. I don’t know how they happened to be split but the moving back and forth during the flight certainly affected the tranquillity of the F cabin.
Also 2 of the F passengers were AA ground staff and they were obviously delighted to be in the F cabin! I always thought that staff in these circumstances were advised to not make it obvious that they were on a “free-bie”?
We arrived on time and thankfully immigration only took 10 minutes. However, my bags arrived 45 minutes after landing (with no priority labels) and then we queued for a further 10 minutes to exit Customs.
After 50 odd sectors in F with various carriers (BA/LH/LX/EK) this was singularly my worst F experience. I have read much about the AA seating on the 777 being better than BA and others. This may be the case in J where BA’s 2-4-2 configuration and limited aisle access is getting surpassed. In F, the seating is at best “different” but even BA’s F seat has its advantages (on 777 and 380, but not the cramped 747)
AA’s real failings in the F product are 1] with the ground services (check in, boarding, lounges, baggage handling) and 2] the crew. There was simply no personalisation of service from the crew. Also not providing anything special in the Lounge and on-board food and beverage in F (over J) shows that American F felt very much like an afterthought.
My return journey with BA in F a few days later was a complete contrast (having the Concorde room in both JFK and T5 and an attentive on-board crew). I won’t make the mistake off flying AA F cabin again.